Glassman soon began putting his "Workout of the Day" online. Free training videos became available on YouTube. Firemen wearing full gear posted their exhausting-just-to-watch workouts. CrossFit caught fire. During the height of the recession, demand for one of the world's toughest fitness regimes resulted in the rapid opening of CrossFit gyms. There are now about 3,400 boxes worldwide, with more than 1,000 opening in just the past year, according to the CrossFit website www.crossfit.com.
It helped that CrossFit gyms are relatively cheap to open compared to traditional gyms. Guido Trinidad, a former professional football player, opened Peak360 Athletic Performance CrossFit in Miami in 2009. He said he had just $5,000 in his bank account, "about enough to pay the first month's rent," and some equipment he already had purchased when operating a boot camp out of his car.
He mustered another $50,000 to $60,000 in loans to purchase more equipment and the most expensive item: the rubber floor. Watch 300 pounds worth of barbell and weights drop repeatedly on the floor after dead lifts and it's easy to see why.
"I think I paid a little over $2 a square foot for the rubber floor and over $1 a pound for the weights," Trinidad said. He now has more than 200 members at Peak360 and is about to open another CrossFit on Miami Beach. "Business is booming," he said.
While CrossFit began as a fitness workout, it also has evolved into a sport. The first CrossFit Games, to crown the world's "fittest" male and female, were held in 2007 with about 500 competitors. The 2012 CrossFit Games are coming up in July at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. More than 70,000 people from around the world participated in open and regional qualifiers, in which athletes have no idea what the competitions will be.
$1 million purse
The top three women and men from each of the 17 regionals worldwide advance to the final three-day competition, which has a $1 million purse with the male and female winners each receiving $250,000.
Trinidad became the first Miami athlete to make the CrossFit Games, when he finished in the top three at the South East Regionals held last month in West Palm Beach.
Rich Froning Jr. of Cookeville, Tenn., will be defending his men's title. "You can't necessarily be the best at one thing," Froning, 24, said. "You need to be good at a bunch of stuff and eliminate your weaknesses. That's the whole thing about CrossFit."
He and his cousin began doing CrossFit in his dad's barn. But he prefers the camaraderie and competitiveness of classes. "The Crossfit community is so strong because of the shared suffering," he said.
Ron Medina, a roofing contractor, had just finished his WOD during a recent class at Peak360. At 43, he said he's in the best shape of his life.
"Going to the gym was very boring for me," he said. "Here, it is like a competition. Today's workout was only nine minutes, but it was very hard. I'm pretty sure everybody wanted to pass out at the end."
But while CrossFit is growing in leaps and bounds now, Walter R. Thompson, professor of exercise science at Georgia State University, said it's likely to become just another fitness fad. High-intensity training programs, like CrossFit and Insanity, did not make the top 20 of the 2011 annual survey of 20,000 certified trainers of the American College of Sports Medicine. And he doesn't expect it to crack the top 20 for the upcoming 2012 survey.
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